ActionStation has joined Child Poverty Action Group and Auckland Action Against Poverty in urging the government to extend the Winter Energy Payment period beyond the planned end date of October 1.
“This year Winter Energy Payments for all beneficiaries were doubled to recognise the extra hardship COVID has brought to those struggling due to the severely inadequate income support rates,” says ActionStation’s Ruby Powell.
“COVID, the disruption and extra stressors it brings are still with us. Now is not the time to be cutting incomes,” says Powell.
“We’re particularly concerned this cut of $63 for families and couples and $41 for single adults will happen just after the COVID rent freeze period ends. Tenancy advocates are reporting that people are facing rent hikes of up to hundreds of dollars a week,” says Powell.
Powell says the pressure of the pandemic is putting extra stress on families already locked in poverty by decades of people in government choosing to take a hands off approach to our welfare, tax and housing systems.
“Over this last week, new reports have shown that the harm caused by people in government deciding to neglect our public services is being borne by our children and young people,” says Powell.
Earlier in the week, research by Economist Max Rashbrooke showed 50% of the population share in only 2% of wealth, whilst the wealthiest 1% own on average $6.2m each of wealth.
Yesterday, Unicef revealed that New Zealand ranks near the bottom of a list of 41 countries for child wellbeing. A separate University of Auckland report showed psychological distress for youth in New Zealand has doubled over the last ten years.
“It seems the government is in denial about the size of the problem we face. The levels of youth suicide, family distress and inequality that we face, requires a pragmatic and committed government response to rebalance our society and ensure every person, regardless of if they are in work or not, can get decent support when they need it.”
“We cannot risk pushing families deeper into poverty by cutting their incomes by ending the Winter Energy Payment,” ends Powell.
Youth Mental Health in Aotearoa New Zealand: Greater Urgency Required, produced by Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures at The University of Auckland
New Zealand's astounding wealth gap challenges fair go identity, Max Rashbrook for The Guardian